94 Dead, 250 Missing as African Migrant Boat Sinks Off the Coast of Italy

The boat sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa

A boat carrying up to 500 people has sunk earlier today in the Mediterranean sea, off the coast of Italy.

The passengers have been identified as migrants, most likely traveling to Italy from northern Africa.

The Guardian writes that at least 94 people have been pronounced dead in the largest disaster at sea reported in Italy this year.

Fishing boats alerted the coast guard on Thursday morning, signaling a ship that was sinking near the island of Lampedusa.

Mayor Giusi Nicolini has put out a statement detailing that 151 people have been brought to safety so far.

"It's horrific, like a cemetery, they are still bringing them out," she describes the scene.

Rescue teams are still searching for 250 people who are currently unaccounted for. The accident is raising concerns about human trafficking and the treatment of refugees.

"We need to rescue those whose boats sink at sea, a task the men of the coastguard have been seeing to for months, but we also need to do everything possible to stop the traffickers of death who exploit the hope of the poor," states Maurizio Lupi, the Italian transport minister.

He mentions that the incident is a "huge tragedy" which is "not humanly tolerable."

"It is a duty which we must take on, which the international community and in particular the European Union must take on," he adds.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres discussed the migrant boat sinking incidents last year.

"I commend the swift action taken by the Italian coastguard to save lives. At the same time, I am dismayed at the rising global phenomenon of migrants and people fleeing conflict or persecution and perishing at sea," he said.

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